REVIEW: This is Us – Season One (2016-2017)

Season 1 Poster –
NBCUniversal

The following is a review of the debut season of This Is Us.

This is Us is a television dramedy about five characters, the way they are connected, and obstacles in life. You have Jack (played by Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca Pearson (played by Mandy Moore), a married couple expecting triplets. Randall (played by Sterling K. Brown), an affluent commodity trader looking for his biological father. Kate (played by Chrissy Metz), an obese woman who is traumatized by the death of her father. And, finally, Kevin (played by Justin Hartley), a sitcom actor who is tired of not being taken seriously as an actor. 

You know, it almost feels like I should apologize to the writers of This Is Us – as well as everyone else who have worked on the show in some capacity. I didn’t ever talk the show down, or disrespect it, but I did, quietly, root against it whenever it was up for awards. So, yes, I would like to apologize for rooting against the show when it was up for awards that I strongly believed deserved to go to another show, and today, with this review, I’d like to openly state how wrong I was for doing that.

I would also like to apologize for not having realized that the entire first season was available to bingewatch on Amazon Prime Video in Denmark until, like, a week ago (I only knew the first season had just started to be available to watch on a weekly basis on Danish Television). Because, the thing is, This Is Us is a great show — I have fallen head over heels in love with it — and it deserves all the praise and all of the accolades that have been thrown its way in the past.

But I am pretty sure the guy I have to apologize the most to is Sterling K. Brown. Brown was really good in The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story, but, whenever he was up for awards for his performance in This Is Us, I ended up rooting against him. You see, when he ended up winning his Emmy award, his Golden Globe award, and his Critics’ Choice award for his performance as Randall Pearson, he was always up against Bob Odenkirk, who I’ve long believed is an underappreciated actor. I am truly sorry. Will all of this having been said, I am happy to say that I am just a huge fan of Brown now. I am a fan.

Sterling K. Brown is one of the standout performers in the show. His is the character that carries the present day elements for the show, and, in a way, he is also the character that binds the two periods together. The show is the strongest when it relies on Brown’s incredible ability to take any scene and elevate it to the highest quality imaginable. His performance is truly beautiful. It is the standout performance in a show that features an excellent ensemble cast, and he never overpowers his other cast-members. But he always, always shines.

I would like to also give a huge shout-out to Milo Ventimiglia. I was embarrassingly obsessed with him and his character back when Heroes was on-air. I even had a poster of him on my wall. Nowadays, we are lucky enough that we get to watch him as one of the heroes of This Is Us. I truly believe that he is a great underappreciated television actor. He is one of my personal favorites, and it makes me so happy to see him light up the screen as a great television father and one giant package of wisdom.

Ron Cephas Jones and guest star Gerald McRaney are equally phenomenal. They are both scene-stealers and absolutely brilliant. But that’s the thing. The entire cast is great. It almost feels like a cheat to single out the truly fantastic performances when everyone is so good. I think this is one of the great ensemble casts on television.

Unfortunately, one character is left too much in the background. Susan Kelechi Watson deserves so much more attention than she gets in the first season. She isn’t completely wasted this season, but Watson simply doesn’t get the big scenes that every other actor on the show does. I found it frustrating that she wasn’t featured more prominently in episodes.

I was also, frankly, disappointed with how few scenes of the big three — Chrissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown, and Justin Hartley’s characters — we get to see in the first season. Brown and Hartley got a lot of really good scenes together, but, as far as I can remember, Metz and Brown only really share one prominent scene together.

I think the one thing that may annoy viewers is the fact that This is Us is emotionally draining. It knocks you down and kicks the air out of your lungs. It is heartbreaking, life-affirming, and absolutely devastating. But those emotional punches to the gut are among the reasons why I like this show so much. The twists and moments that managed to rip my heart out of my chest every other episode were riveting. It is a great television melodrama.

A-

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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